On March 6, 2020, the French Supervisory Authority (“CNIL”) released a statement on processing personal data in light of COVID-19.

The CNIL notes that while everyone should take measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such efforts must comply with applicable data protection rules, in particular when collecting and processing sensitive health data. As a result, employers should not collect in a generalized manner information about possible symptoms of the disease from employees and their relatives. For example, it does not feel it is appropriate for employers to subject employees and visitors to regular temperature checks or to collect health data from them through questionnaires.  The CNIL’s position, in this respect, is similar to the guidance released by Italy’s Garante, which we discuss here in a separate post.

The CNIL also notes that pursuant to applicable labor laws, an employer is required to guarantee the security and safety of its employees and is thus allowed to:

  • invite employees to report possible individual risks of exposure;
  • provide dedicated channels for reporting concerns; and
  • promote schemes to enable staff to work remotely.

Relevant information may be shared with competent authorities, like local health authorities and disease control centres.

The statement also acknowledges that under applicable labor laws, every employee must take measures to protect his or her own health and the health and safety of others. They must inform their employer if they suspect being exposed to the virus.

Confusingly, the statement also states that the evaluation and collection of health and whereabouts data is the prerogative of competent health bodies.  The CNIL calls on all parties involved to follow the instructions of competent health authorities and only to collect health data requested by those bodies.  Covington is continuing to track the release of guidance from European data privacy regulators relating to COVID-19, although to date only a small number of regulators, including those in Italy, Poland, and Denmark, have released such guidance.

Photo of Kristof Van Quathem Kristof Van Quathem

Kristof Van Quathem advises clients on data protection, data security and cybercrime matters in various sectors, and in particular in the pharmaceutical and information technology sector. Kristof has been specializing in this area for over fifteen years and covers the entire spectrum of…

Kristof Van Quathem advises clients on data protection, data security and cybercrime matters in various sectors, and in particular in the pharmaceutical and information technology sector. Kristof has been specializing in this area for over fifteen years and covers the entire spectrum of advising clients on government affairs strategies concerning the lawmaking, to compliance advice on the adopted laws regulations and guidelines, and the representation of clients in non-contentious and contentious matters before data protection authorities.

Photo of Dan Cooper Dan Cooper

Daniel Cooper is co-chair of Covington’s Data Privacy and Cyber Security Practice, and advises clients on information technology regulatory and policy issues, particularly data protection, consumer protection, AI, and data security matters. He has over 20 years of experience in the field, representing…

Daniel Cooper is co-chair of Covington’s Data Privacy and Cyber Security Practice, and advises clients on information technology regulatory and policy issues, particularly data protection, consumer protection, AI, and data security matters. He has over 20 years of experience in the field, representing clients in regulatory proceedings before privacy authorities in Europe and counseling them on their global compliance and government affairs strategies. Dan regularly lectures on the topic, and was instrumental in drafting the privacy standards applied in professional sport.

According to Chambers UK, his “level of expertise is second to none, but it’s also equally paired with a keen understanding of our business and direction.” It was noted that “he is very good at calibrating and helping to gauge risk.”

Dan is qualified to practice law in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Belgium. He has also been appointed to the advisory and expert boards of privacy NGOs and agencies, such as Privacy International and the European security agency, ENISA.